Defiance of Duskendale
During Jaehaerys II’s brief 3-year rule, the echoes of the last Blackfyre rebellion were stifled, casting a semblance of tranquility upon the realms of Westeros. As fate wove its intricate threads, the mantle of rulership passed to his son, Aerys II Targaryen.
Ascending the Iron Throne upon the demise of his father, Aerys II initially projected an image of competence. However, the veneer of capability gradually eroded, revealing the gnarled roots of paranoia and sadism beneath the regal facade.
The brewing storm found its tempest in the audacious move by Lord Denys Darklyn of Duskendale, yearning for greater autonomy. In 277 AC, he brazenly proffered a charter, a proposition promptly dismissed by the indomitable Lord Tywin Lannister. Denys, undeterred, withheld payments, beckoning King Aerys to the web he had woven in Duskendale. Eager to assert his dominance, Aerys, ensnared in the machinations of power, walked willingly into the trap, only to be entangled. The King’s escort, led by the valiant Ser Gwayne Gaunt, met a grim end.
In retaliation, the lion-hearted Tywin laid siege to Duskendale, an ordeal that stretched for six interminable months. The gallant Ser Barristan Selmy orchestrated a daring rescue, but the seeds of vengeance had already been sown. Denys met the executioner’s justice, and House Darklyn and House Hollard faced the wrath of Dragonfire, each member condemned to the gruesome embrace of flames, with only Dontos Hollard spared by the plea of Ser Barristan. The aftermath echoed with the haunting question pondered by Barristan — would the tragedy have unfolded differently if Aerys had succumbed, paving the way for Rhaegar’s ascendancy?
Mad King Aerys
The once-regal visage of King Aerys, reclaimed from the clutches of Duskendale, withered into a grotesque specter. His dread of being touched transformed him into a monstrous figure, with unkempt hair cascading down to his waist, a tangled beard, and talon-like fingernails untouched by blades. The fear of poison rendered him emaciated, resembling a wraith much older than his years.
A turning point emerged when Aerys, ensnared by his paranoia, severed ties with Tywin Lannister, the stalwart Hand of the King. Tywin, a pillar of influence, had steered the ship of Targaryen rule for two decades, fostering stability and strength in the realm. The defiance of Duskendale, however, marked Aerys’ descent into madness.
Traumatized by his imprisonment, Aerys’ sanity crumbled further. Suspicion gripped him, accusing Tywin of harboring sinister designs during the Duskendale incident and alleging a collusion between Tywin and Rhaegar for the coveted throne. To counter this perceived threat, Aerys, in a fit of irrationality, appointed Lord Steffon Baratheon to secure a bride for Rhaegar, fuelling rumors of Tywin’s imminent demise.
The tragic demise of Steffon, swallowed by the tempestuous sea near Storm’s End, became a catalyst for Aerys’ irrationality. Blaming Tywin for the misfortune, he spiraled deeper into paranoia, refusing solitary meetings with Tywin and insisting on the constant presence of all seven Kingsguard knights, a surreal tableau of a realm ensnared in the grip of a deteriorating monarch.
As the shadows of paranoia and madness envelop King Aerys, he enlists the services of Varys, a eunuch famed for his ability to unravel covert threats to become the master of whispers. A tense dance of political maneuvering unfolds, epitomized by Aerys orchestrating the union of his son Rhaegar with Princess Elia Martell. However, the King’s irrational fears prevent him from attending the nuptial ceremony, haunted by specters of potential assassination.
Aerys descends into a maelstrom of brutality, capriciousness, and an unnerving fixation on fire, particularly the wildfire. The macabre use of wildfire for executions becomes a grim spectacle while the King surrounds himself with pyromancers, further entrenching his descent into madness.
In an attempt to assert dominance over the formidable Lord Tywin Lannister, Aerys strategically places Tywin’s son, Jaime, in the Kingsguard. Tywin and Jaime perceive this as a ploy to hold Jaime hostage, potentially robbing House Lannister of its heir. Unbeknownst to Tywin, his own daughter Cersei had played a part in proposing this arrangement to Aerys, motivated by her own agenda to derail Jaime’s betrothal to Lysa Tully. The public announcement of Jaime’s appointment becomes a facade, concealing Tywin’s hidden fury. Feigning illness, Tywin abandons his role as Hand of the King, retreating to Casterly Rock with Cersei.
The title left by Tywin is filled by Lord Owen Merryweather, a man known more for his flattery and feasts than administrative prowess. The tension between Aerys and his heir, Prince Rhaegar, intensifies, giving rise to court factions loyal to either side. Aerys, spiraling further into paranoia and cruelty, bestows wealth and titles upon those he deems trustworthy while ruthlessly punishing perceived enemies.
Rhaegar’s Audacious Move
Yet, the pivotal unraveling of everything unfolds at the Tourney at Harrenhal, a grand spectacle meant to unite noble houses across the Seven Kingdoms. Prince Rhaegar, with his remarkable combat prowess, takes center stage and alters the course of history with a single, controversial act.
Contrary to tradition, where the crown of the Queen of Love and Beauty is bestowed upon one’s own spouse, Rhaegar stuns the realm by crowning Lyanna Stark, the betrothed of Robert Baratheon, sister of Eddard Stark. This audacious move ablaze a volatile brew of betrayal and shattered alliances, particularly between Houses Stark, Baratheon, and Targaryen.
The repercussions of Rhaegar’s fateful decision ignite a fervor of animosity. Robert Baratheon, jilted and humiliated, transforms his love for Lyanna into an unrelenting desire for revenge against the Targaryens, sparking a tempest that would eventually engulf the entire realm.
The tumultuous saga unfolds as Brandon Stark, Lyanna’s elder sibling, succumbs to fury over Rhaegar’s provocative actions. Public confrontation becomes Brandon’s undoing, leading to his arrest and eventual execution by the increasingly erratic Aerys II. The Stark-Targaryen schism deepens, casting a long shadow over the realm.
In the wake of Brandon’s demise, tensions ignited, fanning the flames of dissent across the Seven Kingdoms. Houses Stark, Baratheon, and Arryn forge an alliance fueled by common anger and a profound sense of betrayal. Their mission, initially anchored in seeking justice for the Starks and restoring the honor of House Baratheon, swiftly evolves into a rebellion against Aerys II’s tyrannical rule. As the rebellion gains momentum, discontented major houses join the cause, driven by their shared frustration with the Mad King’s capricious behavior.
Tywin Lannister, an erstwhile ally of the Targaryens, seizes the opportunity to fortify his own dominion. Nursing years of perceived slights from the Mad King, Tywin opts to betray Aerys II, strategically concealing his intentions. The rebellion gains further impetus as loyalists within the Reach and the Vale crumble in the face of defeat. Houses Tyrell and Hightower, once staunch supporters of the Targaryens, waver in their loyalty, drawn toward the swelling tide of rebellion.
At the helm of the rebel forces, Robert Baratheon faces early setbacks, marked by defeat at the Battle of Ashford and a protracted siege at Storm’s End. Yet, his resilience and the unwavering support of loyal allies bolster his campaign, turning the tide in their favor.
At the pivotal Battle of the Trident, Robert Baratheon squares off against Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, a clash that would sculpt the destiny of Westeros. In a brutal confrontation, Robert emerges triumphant, dealing a fatal blow to Rhaegar and extinguishing the dwindling hopes of Targaryen resurgence.
Within the walls of King’s Landing, tensions reach a boiling point. Consumed by paranoia, Aerys II makes a dire decision, sealing his fate and that of his dynasty. He commands the pyromancers to unleash wildfire hidden throughout the city, intending to reduce it to ashes along with his adversaries.
However, the Mad King’s catastrophic plan is halted by surprising events. Jaime Lannister, a member of the Kingsguard, recognizes the impending cataclysm and intervenes, slaying Aerys and putting an end to his reign of madness.
While Robert’s forces wage war in the west, Tywin Lannister arrives at King’s Landing’s doorstep with his formidable army. The Targaryen soldiers, initially hopeful for reinforcement, unwittingly open the gates. In a calculated move, Tywin enters the city and ruthlessly sacks it. The collateral damage is immense as Lannister forces unleash their wrath upon both loyalists and innocent civilians. This brutal act reverberates across the realm, cementing the demise of Targaryen’s rule.
In the tumultuous aftermath of the sack of King’s Landing, the remnants of House Targaryen faced a harrowing reckoning. Elia Martell, wife to Rhaegar, and their two innocent children met a brutal demise, extinguishing any direct Targaryen claim to the throne. The last vestiges of the Targaryen legacy, Daenerys and Viserys, were ushered into exile, scattered across the Free Cities, their lives etched with adversity as they endeavored to rebuild amidst the ashes of their shattered dynasty.
As the Targaryen banner fell, yielding to the victorious rebel forces, Robert Baratheon, reluctant though he was, ascended the throne. His legitimacy rested not only on his Targaryen lineage but also on the might of his military triumph. The rebellion heralded the close of the Targaryen epoch and the commencement of a new narrative for the Seven Kingdoms.
While Robert’s rule sought to bring stability back to Westeros, the scars of war ran deep, and the repercussions of the rebellion echoed throughout the realm.
For House Stark, post-rebellion life held a bittersweet note. Eddard Stark, a pivotal figure in the uprising, returned to the North with Lyanna’s son, Jon Snow. Eddard bound himself to a solemn vow to shield Jon’s lineage and secure his safety, concealing Jon’s true parentage. This clandestine pledge would cast far-reaching shadows over the unfolding years.
House Baratheon, architects of the rebellion, now sat upon the throne. Robert Baratheon wielded power supported by steadfast allies, notably Houses Stark and Arryn. However, the demands of rulership and the weight of his own excesses would sow seeds of discord, laying the foundation for future conflicts.
House Lannister, having orchestrated the betrayal of the Targaryens and played a pivotal role in the sack of King’s Landing, emerged as a formidable force in Westeros. The ruthless actions of their house, notably the savage sack, carved a reputation that evoked both fear and resentment.
The remnants of House Targaryen, Daenerys, and Viserys languished in exile across the Narrow Sea. Their days became a relentless struggle, a quest to reclaim their birthright and amass support for a prospective return to the Iron Throne. The trials they endured and the alliances they forged in Essos would sculpt their destinies, laying the groundwork for their eventual resurgence in Westeros.